PostHeaderIcon The Pace Lap: The Checker O’Reilly 500 @ Phoenix

Welcome to The Pace Lap, your catchall preview post! Let’s get
you started on race weekend with a metric truckload of stats, facts,
opinion and innuendo.

The race: Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15 at Phoenix International Raceway

The specs: 312 laps on the one-mile track. (It’s 500 kilometers, y’see.)

The broadcasts: ABC, plus the live chat right here on Yahoo! Sports. 

Defending champ: Jimmie Johnson. Yep, him again.

The standings leaders: Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin (-73), Jeff Gordon (-112).

The history: Drivers rank Phoenix as one of their favorite tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, tied for second with Atlanta. (Bristol is No. 1.) The late Alan Kulwicki won the first NASCAR race at Phoenix, in 1988, and immediately performed the first Polish Victory lap.

The appropriate video: Kyle Busch here in 2008: "We don’t wait on tape."

Guy with the most to gain: Come on, you need to ask? Mark Martin, of course. If he can get within 50 points of Johnson going into Homestead, he’s got a reasonable shot. If the lead stays the same — or worse for Martin, widens — the Chase is all but over. And if Johnson can manage to stretch the lead to 162 points, all he needs to do is start the car in Miami.

Guys with the most to lose: Again, you don’t even need to ask. If Johnson has another early-lap wreck here, or if something unforeseen goes wrong in the pits or fuel strategy,

Our pick to win: Martin. This is the most important race of the season, and one of the most important in his career, and I’m thinking he and the No. 5 team are up to the challenge.

All right, you’re up. Who’s your pick for this weekend? Go!

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  4. The Pace Lap: The Tums Fast Relief 500 @ Martinsville
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